Ban on carry-on laptops could be necessary – USA TODAY
For decades, threats to aviation have shifted and morphed, causing economic damage to the industry and loss of life. As governments and the aviation industry have updated security procedures, policies and technology, threats have evolved to counter these actions. The current threat, using laptops as independent explosive devices, exemplifies this evolving threat and response.
Governments understand there is no “silver bullet” that can solve this problem. And the terrorists understand that if they succeed, they’ve shaken the aviation industry, caused division among partners, and terrorized the public.
Unfortunately, the laptop threat and the response, banning laptops in the cabin, poses an unexpected consequence from the danger of lithium batteries in the aircraft hold. This issue now poses a Catch-22 for decision-makers who must also mitigate this threat.
What’s the answer? Understand that the threat is real: A terrorist with explosives in a laptop got past security in Somalia and blew a hole in the side of a Daallo Airlines flight last year, killing himself and injuring two. A catastrophe was avoided because the airplane had not reached cruising altitude, so the cabin was not pressurized.
If intelligence demonstrates a threat is imminent, there’s little choice but to ban laptops at least temporarily on the riskiest flights. Meanwhile, governments, the International Civil Aviation Organization and the industry need to develop a longer-term response.
Risk-based security analysis, introduction of security procedures and targeted use of current technology could provide some mitigation, along with safety mitigation procedures for lithium batteries. Finally, more effective technology — CAT scans at checkpoints — already exists and must be expedited and put into airports.
Threats to aviation will continue to evolve. The key to mitigation is to understand the intelligence, work in a global response and take measures to protect the public.
John Halinski, former deputy administrator of the Transportation Security Administration, is a security consultant and senior fellow at George Washington University’s Center for Cyber and Homeland Security.